Our Commitment to Protecting Our Water Resources
Our Commitment To Clean Water--The Clean Water Act
Many Americans may not have noticed but in 1972, the survival of their rivers, lakes, and streams was ensured for future generations. The Federal government passed the Clean Water Act that year, and the first National Water Resource Protection Legislation was in place. Finally, clean water sources such as rivers, lakes, and streams were recognized as critical resources.
The Clean Water Act addresses how municipal wastewater treatment plants must operate, and requires these plants to provide secondary treatment. Before the Clean Water Act went into effect, many municipal wastewater treatment plants only provided minimal treatment. Pollutants from business, industry, and residential use were being released back into our nation's rivers, lakes, and streams.
PWD---A Complete, Clean Water System
Working together with the Safe Drinking Water Act which regulates the quality of water before it goes to our homes and taps, the Clean Water Act controls the quality of the water after it leaves our homes and businesses. Along with additional Industrial Wastewater Regulations that the City of Philadelphia has in place, PWD has a complete system of controls and regulations to protect our water supply at all points of the Urban Water Cycle.
Upgrades and Improvements
Through a number of plant upgrades, including the comprehensive program begun in the 1970s, PWD now operates three award-winning water pollution control plants. Our secondary treatment systems are in place at all three of our water pollution control plants, at a total cost of approximately one billion dollars. These plants remove approximately 92% of the pollutants before the water is returned to the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers. As a result, the Delaware River, once so polluted it could no longer support aquatic life, now boasts the return of approximately 42 species of fish as well as vibrant waterfront living
The Health and Vitality of Our Rivers
After our tremendous investment and progress in wastewater treatment, sparked by the federal Clean Water Act over 25 years ago, Philadelphia now enjoys watersheds that are cleaner and healthier than they have been in well over a century. As a result, the quality of our drinking water has improved, and new economic and recreational activities are coming to life along our Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers.
Another major service goal for the Department in the years ahead is to help preserve and enhance the water quality in the region through effective wastewater and storm water services, along with planning and acting in partnership with other stakeholders to achieve a sensible balance between cost and environmental benefit.
The Water Department invests roughly a quarter of a billion dollars every year through our combined operating and capital budgets to protect the region's watersheds. While we expend most of these dollars in operating our wastewater treatment plants and maintaining our sewer infrastructure, we are also among the region's leaders in using innovative practices such as biomonitoring of fish and insects in the region's waterways and in using sophisticated information technology for watershed modeling.
Looking forward, the Department is committed to continuing our investment in protecting the region's water environment, and we have created a new Office of Watersheds in 1998 to help guide our efforts.
Award-Winning Performance in Wastewater Treatment
During the past decade, the national Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) has honored all three of the Department's wastewater treatment plants with awards for perfect environmental regulatory compliance.
Storm Water Management
Although our responsibility for managing Philadelphia's storm water system is probably less recognized than our water supply and wastewater treatment roles, storm water management is an important service for flood control and environmental protection. As part of our increased emphasis on this service, we continue to focus substantially more effort on keeping the City's storm drains free of debris so that rainwater and runoff can be collected effectively off streets and rooftops.
Our crews maintain storm drains citywide, in addition to 600 miles of sewers that handle only storm water, and nearly 1,600 miles of sewers that handle storm water along with wastewater flows.
Our employees also operate a 73-acre biosolids recycling facility -- the largest of its type in the United States. This facility processes the biosolids resulting from wastewater treatment for a variety of environmentally beneficial uses including compost for gardening and horticulture, revegitation of strip mines, fertilizer for farmlands, and restoration of City parks and play fields.
More about Biosolid Recycling Center